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Tea from Shizuoka exceeds radioactive standard after quake

June 9 (Bloomberg) — Tea from Japan’s Shizuoka prefecture had above-standard radioactive cesium levels three months after an earthquake led to radiation leaks at a nuclear plant about 360 kilometers (224 miles) from the area.

The dried leaves had 679 becquerels of cesium per kilogram, more than the 500 becquerels per kilogram safety government standard, according to a faxed statement from the local government today. The contamination was found in leaves from the prefecture’s Warashina area, while tea produced in all 18 other areas had safe levels, based on tests conducted by tea farmers, according to the statement.

Shizuoka Governor Heita Kawakatsu last month said tests on fresh tea leaves and drinks showed they contained cesium amounts below the government safety limit. The government on June 2 decided to curb shipments of dried tea leaves containing more than 500 becquerel per kilogram of radioactive cesium and ordered a halt in deliveries from the eastern prefectures of Ibaraki, Chiba, Kanagawa and Tochigi where tainted produce was detected.

Shizuoka, which accounts for about 40 percent of the nation’s tea output and lies southwest of Tokyo, asked the farmers that produced the contaminated leaves to recall those products and halt shipments.

Japan’s tea production, including fresh and dried leaves, was worth 102.1 billion yen ($1.3 billion) in 2009, according to the agriculture ministry.

Japan’s Nuclear Safety Commission on April 12 said an estimated 630,000 terabecquerels of radiation had been released into the atmosphere from the stricken Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant northeast of Tokyo. The country’s government the same day raised the severity rating of the nuclear crisis to the highest level on an international scale.

—Editors: Dave McCombs, Abhay Singh

To contact the reporter on this story: Mayumi Otsuma in Tokyo at motsumabloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Dave McCombs at dmccombsbloomberg.net

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